The pace of single-family home production remained virtually unchanged in February, with a 0.6 percent decline to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 499,000 units, according to figures released last week by the U.S. Commerce Department. Meanwhile, a large decline on the more volatile multifamily side brought the overall number of housing starts down 5.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 575,000 units.

“This latest data indicates that the single-family sector is gradually finding more stable ground, particularly in light of the poor weather conditions that hampered new building activity in two out of four regions last month and the continued difficulties that builders faced in accessing financing for new projects,” says National Association of Home Builders chief economist David Crowe. “With the deadline for purchasers to take advantage of home buyer tax credits fast approaching at the end of April, improvement in single-family building activity was expected and may have continued into early March. Moreover, the very thin inventory of new homes now on the market, the pent-up demand from three-plus years of low household formations and good affordability conditions will provide the platform for a 25 percent gain in new-home construction in 2010 over 2009.”

While the combined pace of single- and multifamily housing starts fell 5.9 percent to 575,000 units in February, that decline was mostly due to a 30.3 percent dip in multifamily starts to a 76,000-unit pace following a double-digit increase on that side in the previous month. Meanwhile, single-family starts held virtually even, with a 0.6 percent decline to a 499,000-unit pace.

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